Simplicity: Day 21

As a gift from Evernote this New Year, I received a free Audible copy¬†of Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing“. This is a bit ironic because several of my Evernote files include things like “declutter my Evernote”. While I am not generally troubled by hoarding of physical things, I have a real problem with digital files.

I am not completely convinced by the “magic” that Marie Kondo explains in her book (at least some of it must be culturally dependent) but I can see that I have a problem with too many files cluttering up my digital life. If the purchase of a second home is the not the solution for a storage problem for hoarders, the possession of several external harddrives, 2 backup services, 4 cloud services and 3 computers is not a solution for my digital hoarding. There, I said it. Merely rearranging and filing my files better and storing them in safer and more dependable places is not the answer to my problem.

Simplicity is the first of 5 Testimonies from the Society of Friends that uses an acronym(!) SPICES. Explained to children, me! me!, simplicity is prioritizing the spirit of something over its material form. Simplicity is remembering that popular culture is not what is important about life, it is a distraction from what is important about life. Simplicity is about living in harmony with the world around us so that we can feel our purpose in life.

This whole 100 Day Challenge is about simplicity, if framed in this way. Turning my back on popular culture, at least for a while, feels so familiar and refreshing. Wearing a minimal, dare I say Quaker inspired, wardrobe that keeps the focus on how I am being, not on how I am looking is another call to simplicity. Looking for the value in the things I already own, instead of going to find other things, this is also simplicity.

Can I apply these thoughts to the clutter that is my digital life? I will be honest. In my entire career in Academia, I have only once needed to go back to a previous year and re-read an email. What was listed in that email (my startup package!) is exactly the sort of thing I have now learned to commit to a separate file of Very Important Details (VID). I have also learned that VID also have a time limit on them. Just like I can throw away receipts from 10 years ago because they simply can’t be called for, I can keep moving through my life shedding digital detritus at a natural rate. Does my email system automatically archive mail older than a certain date? ¬†Better yet, I can set it to simply delete this mail at a regular pace, such as after a year, so that I don’t have to go find the archives that are clogging up my space.

Marie Kondo suggests that we touch each and every single object and ask ourselves if it “sparks joy” before we decide to keep it. I don’t even want to touch most of this stuff I have accumulated. Date it, dump it in a vault and if I never think of it again, delete it after a reasonable time. The only exception to this I have ever discovered is photographs, which I have been sincerely sorry to imagine (I found them!) that I lost.

I am working on something new but it isn’t ready yet, so here is a little sketch of the Ball Moss, a plant (or parasite depending on who you ask) that grows on oak trees around here.

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